Rita Bunatal is the founder and creative director of Malaika Apparel Co., a Pan African apparel and lifestyle brand. Envisioned in the spring of 2015 when she was still a student at Ithaca College, she entered several business competitions such as Park Tank and the Business School entrepreneurship contest and received both advice and funding. She started to create designs that were inspired by the happiness, pain, frustration, joy, anger, and excitement she felt in the midst of not only being a 1st generation African, but also as a black woman living between the U.S. and Ghana. As a communications student, she was inspired by various misrepresentations of the narratives surrounding black bodies in the media and the misunderstanding of each other within the diaspora. Since the launch of Malaika Apparel Co, her work has been featured in BuzzFeed, The New York Times, Blavity, HerCampus, and Essence magazine. Through this brand, she hopes to change and reshape the dominant narrative surrounding Africa.
In addition to running her business, Bunatal is also a marketing coordinator for SheaMoisture Hair Care at Sundial Brands LLC., one of the fastest growing companies in personal care. She is responsible for assisting the brand team in trend research, product development, and strategic marketing plan creations.
Bunatal holds a B.S. in Communication Management and Design with a Corporate Communications focus and minors in African Diaspora Studies and Communication Studies. She identifies as a Ghanaian—Kenyan American and a Pan-African womanist, and she spends time exploring the complex identity formations of young Africans who continue to live between Africa and the United States. She was recognized for her work with viral photo campaign during her sophomore year in college titled "The Real Africa: Fight the Stereotype." The campaign dispelled common stereotypes about Africa and was featured on CNN, BET, and USA Today among many others. She was also named a Future of Ghana 30 Under 30 Pioneer in 2019.
Bunatal continues to do work and create art that explores the complex identity formations of young Africans who continue to live between Africa and the United States.